Written evidence from Gordon Pettitt (HSR
1. It is based on the HS2 Y project, not just section
1 to Birmingham.
2. I have only responded to those questions "the
committee are likely to pursue" where I have appropriate
experience or expertise. It is limited to six pages as requested
(excluding this summary).
3. There is one key argument for the HS2 Y network
and that is that the existing main lines north from London are
already at or near capacity. Between now and 2026 when the first
stage is open, a small amount of extra capacity can be added by
the lengthening trains, improvement to signalling headways, and
construction of more grade separated junctions. Beyond that date
new capacity is needed and the best way of providing that is to
build a new line that provides a more efficient means of moving
longer distance passengers and at the same time releases capacity
on the existing routes which can then be used to provide capacity
for improved urban, inter-urban, cross country services and freight.
This enables the capacity on HS2 and existing lines to be to be
increased in total and optimised in a way that reduces operating
costs across both networks.
4. It is essential to take into account that the
Y network when complete will enable long distance passengers from
Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross to the North to use the new
line and benefit from a 40% improvement in journey times (there
will be increased benefit at weekends as all maintenance on the
new line is undertaken at night). As a result the new railway
will be more attractive to a wider range of passengers who would
otherwise choose to drive or travel by air. The very large investment
already made and planned in London, the South East and Scotland
together with that already planned for Birmingham, Manchester
(Hub) and Leeds will increase accessibility to HS2 and provide
for the fist time a realistic rail alternative to the M25.
5. The main alternative to HS2 is to endeavour to
provide additional capacity on the three existing routes north.
I provide detailed evidence of the serious disadvantages of this
approach. In particular I point to recent experience with the
upgrading of the West Coast main line that took ten years to complete
and cost £9 billion.
To increase the capacity of this route further, taking
into account of the need to increase capacity, for local as well
as long distance traffic, will mean additional tracks on the approaches
to Birmingham and Manchester and provision of more terminal capacity
in those cities. The situation on the East Coast route is worse,
as only 50% of that route has more than two tracks between London
and Leeds.. Disruption and delay to passengers will be worse than
that experienced over the West coast main line for 10 years.
6. I know of no country in the world with the density
and mix of traffic on our three main lines north that has decided
that its passengers should suffer the cost and disruption of converting
existing infrastructure, (already operating at or near capacity)
in preference to building a new line. To pretend that the long
term rail capacity problems north from London will be solved by
tweaking the existing network would be akin to adjusting the deckchairs
on the Titanic.
1. What are the main arguments either for
or against HSR?
1.1 My evidence is submitted on the basis that the
HSR programme is for implementation of the "HS2 Y Project"
as a whole, due for completion in 203233 rather than on
the first stage to Birmingham due for completion in 2026. It takes
into account that there has been a 70% increase in passenger journeys
and 46% increase in freight tonne kilometres over the past 15
years and a 14% increase in population is forecast between 2001
1.2 to cater for this growth there has already been
substantial investment in infrastructure, particularly in London,
the South-East and Scotland. Further major projects in these areas
have been authorised and are due for completion before 2020. Plans
are now advanced for major rail enhancement schemes around Birmingham,
Manchester and Leeds. These schemes will transform railways in
those areas over the next 20 years and will further increase demand
for travel between these cities as well as to and from London.
1.3 The main argument for HS2 is that additional
infrastructure capacity is needed to meet increased demand for
long distance rail travel on a north to south axis between all
the major cities in Scotland, North of England / Midlands and
London. Existing routes between Euston, St. Pancras, Kings Cross
and the north are already at or near capacity. These mixed traffic
railways (ie used by fast, semi fast and stopping passenger trains
as well as freight) have experienced unprecedented increases in
business in all these markets, each of which require trains with
differing characteristics and stopping patterns. This has already
led to increasing conflicts between operators, local authorities
and NetworkRail over the use of capacity, not least on the approach
to the northern cities which unlike the approaches to London,
still have limited access over two tracks for main line and local
services and a shortage of terminal capacity following closures
in the 1960's (for background to this see my April Modern railways
1.4 Main line services also suffer. On the East Coast
Main line increased business has resulted in the need for more
stops at intermediate stations which uses more capacity. This
and additional trains on both the main line and suburban networks
has resulted in the average journey time of the limited stop long
distance trains between London and Newcastle being extended by
10 to 15 minutes compared with the schedules of 1992. This problem
which has also affected East Anglia and Great Western lines will
get worse on all the routes north, unless there is a substantial
increase in capacity.
1.5 The best economic and operational solution to
this problem is to divert all the long distance traffic from each
of the main lines north from London on to a new railway as proposed
for HS2. This will release significant capacity on the existing
lines to cater for the growth of the suburban, inter-urban, cross
country and freight markets. In this way the capacity of the High
Speed and Classic lines can both be optimised whilst allowing
growth in all sectors and at the same time minimising the costs
of operation on both systems.
1.6 HS2 will be available 16/18 hours a day, seven
days a week with maintenance done at night. The use of modern
trains and infrastructure will bring about a step change in reliability
compared with today's standards of main line punctuality. On HS1
delay due to infrastructure problems is 3-4 seconds per train.
1.7 Journey times on the HS2 network will be 40-45%
shorter than now and business will of course increase. But what
is less known is that investment in rolling stock will, due to
the shorter journey times be approx. 50% less than for a similar
frequency of service on classic lines. Similarly staff and maintenance
costs will also be lower.
1.8 On completion of the Y network, 400 meter trains
with a seating capacity 50% greater than an 11 car Pendolino will
be used. In the longer term it will be possible to increase capacity
further by the use of double deck trains.
3. Business case
3.2 "What would be the pros and
cons of resolving the capacity issues in other ways - for example
by upgrading the West Coast Main Line or building a new conventional
3.2.1 The HS2 Y Project will provide the capacity
needed to meet future passenger demand on the East Coast and Midland
Main Lines as well as the West Coast Main Line. Experience shows
that this is not simply achieved by upgrading existing routes.
The key issues are these: Upgrading works on all three routes
to the north to meet the capacity demands beyond 2020, will be
more extensive, effect more trains and take longer than those
recently undertaken on the WCML The work will be taking place
on infrastructure already 150 years old where a significant number
of bridges, and possibly viaducts and tunnels will be in need
of reconstruction during this time. To undertake such work at
the same time as undertaking major works to increase extra capacity
would be a logistical nightmare with considerable risks and costs
3.2.2 At the end of upgrading work, the capacity
added to the classic network will of course be considerably less
than if the HS2 network had been built. If it had the capacity
of both networks could have been optimised to meet the specific
requirements of the individual markets and at the same time reduce
the operational costs of those markets.
3.2.3 The areas of land required for grade separated
junctions and widening of existing routes will be considerable.
All these sites will require individual Transport and Works Act
orders (at least 8 on the East Coast route between London and
Leeds alone) which means that total route capacity will always
be uncertain until the last order is in place. Even if land was
available alongside existing tracks on all three routes the work
would take longer, and involve very serious disruption to line-side
residents and businesses, which are likely to be on a larger scale
than now proposed for the HS2 Y which is being routed to minimise
the effect on people, businesses and the environment.
3.2.4 At the conclusion of the works the journey
times for long distance passengers will be similar to today with
little or no change to the already slow and tedious journeys over
the last 20/30 miles between the main lines and the terminals
of the northern cities.
3.2.5 Chris Green who was Chief Executive of Virgin
Trains at the time of the West Coast upgrade told me recently
"This upgrading attempted to keep the WCML open on weekdays,
but proved arguably more disruptive as it dragged on for 10 years
with endless weekend closures and unreliable weekday services.
Mainline travel fell as passengers diverted to motorways and airlines.
The domestic airlines achieved a 40% share of the London - Manchester
(non car) market in this period - and this has only now fallen
back to a 20%. It became very clear that it was both more expensive
and more complex to upgrade capacity on an existing railway than
it was to build HS1 on a brand new site. Working next to an operational
WCML brought serious safety constraints. In the meantime the railway
was very unreliable: tight engineering schedules often overran
to delay morning services; newly installed equipment proved unreliable
and the entire route was actually closed at Rugby for two days
following a badly planned Christmas close down. But it has barely
addressed the core weakness - that parts of the existing nineteenth
century route alignment are fundamentally unfit for modern high
speed passenger trains. A £9 billion upgrade has effectively
raised running speeds by 15mph (from 110mph to 125mph) over the
majority of the route but even this required the procurement of
a bespoke fleet of tilting trains.
The same £9 billion spend on a new railway could
have funded and delivered the first 100 miles of a new 215 mph
route with negligible impact on existing passengers".
3.2.6 The problem we now face in the UK with increased
traffic levels on mixed traffic lines is similar to those faced
by most railways with advanced economies. The HS2 solution was
first used in Japan in 1964 with the building of a new line to
provide capacity for long distance trains between Tokyo to Osaka.
Since then similar solutions, to divert long distance traffic
from mixed traffic railways, have been adopted by 14 countries
I know of no country in the world with the density
and mix of traffic on our three main lines north that has decided
to suffer the cost and disruption of converting existing infrastructure,
which is already operating at or near capacity, in preference
to building a new line.
3.3 What would be the pros and cons of alternative
means of managing demand? For rail travel for example by price?
3.3.1 This question is complex when related to mixed
traffic routes, that are at or near capacity. In particular which
section of the market should have demand reduced by pricing and
who will take such decisions and on what basis? Will the decisions
change market share to the point where additional road or airport
capacity is needed and how are these issues to be linked to the
governments objectives linked to road congestion and climate change
3.3.2 HS2 will provide a step change in capacity
which will avoid the need to manage through pricing or overcrowding,
but yield management (which is also used by the airlines to manage
capacity) will still be needed to encourage use of off peak services
and to take the pressure off peak trains. Pricing elasticity can
encourage small changes in travel demand but increasing fares,
on its own, cannot deal with the 56% increase in passenger kilometres
on Britain's railways between 1996 and 2010, and the 61% growth
in rail demand forecast by HS2 over the next 32 years, with a
doubling of trips in the West Midlands to London corridor. Only
additional capacity can do that unless, like the road system,
we are prepared to see rail travel restricted by chronic overcrowding.
3.4 What lessons should the Government learn
from other major transport projects to ensure that any new high
speed lines are built on time and to budget?
3.4.1 The first and most important step is to ensure
complete separation of client and contractor roles. The second
is to employ project management with international experience
and a proven track record of managing major projects - then add
incentives to reduce costs and complete on time The project manager
must be selected at an early stage and work with the client in
ensuring that the project including costs is defined in detail
prior to tendering. Finally the client has to ensure that no changes
to the plan are permitted. The UK track record with major infrastructure
projects has improved in recent years. HS1 and the Olympic project
are examples of international best practice which should give
confidence that HS2 can be completed on time and to budget.
4. The Strategic Route
4.1 The proposed route to the west Midlands
has stations at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham International
and Birmingham New Street. Are these the best possible locations?
What criteria should be used to assess the case for more (or fewer)
4.1.1 The stations proposed are the most appropriate
for a new railway that is planned to cater exclusively for long
distance traffic diverted from the mixed traffic routes between
Euston, St Pancras, Kings Cross and the Midlands/ North.
4.1.2 The proposed stations at Euston and Old Oak
Common in London give the best possible access to the new railway
through the provision of high quality connections to and from
the major destinations within London such as the West End, the
City, Docklands and Heathrow. The completion of Crossrail in 2017
and of Thameslink in 2018 will have a profound impact on the market
for rail travel between the north and south of the country when
combined with completion of the HS2 Y project. The network effect
of all these new lines with their superb connectivity will provide
journey opportunities that are almost impossible to assess today.
Rail will provide for the first time a realistic alternative to
4.1.3 The plans for Euston include an improved underground
concourse and a direct link to Euston Square station. Access to
HS2 could be further improved with a covered walkway or travelator
link between Euston and Kings Cross. The distance between the
two stations is no greater than between terminals at Heathrow
or Gatwick and a further 82 stations on Thameslink and HS1 Kent
routes would be linked to HS2 with a single change of train
4.1.4 The interchange at Old Oak will add 37 stations
from Maidenhead, Slough and Heathrow in the west, through the
West End and the City, to Stratford, Romford and Shenfield in
4.1.5 The proposed stations at Birmingham International
and Curzon Street must like Euston and Old Oak be seen together
as maximising access to the new railway. It is impossible to increase
the track capacity on the approaches to or increase the number
of platforms in New Street. It will therefore be essential to
provide pedestrian/travelator links between Curzon Street, Moor
Street and New Street. Particularly for longer distance passengers
from the South and South West who will (on present plans) have
no through trains onto the Y network for long distance journeys
north of Birmingham.
4.1.6 There would appear to be no scope for any additional
intermediate stations between Old Oak Common and Birmingham International
- a distance of circa 100 miles. My recommendation for the criteria
would be: That any additional stop generates sufficient income
from long distance traffic to justify the loss of capacity on
the route as a whole and particularly in peak periods (one stop
can destroy two following paths with a loss of 1,000+ seats).
4.1.7 The top priority for stations on the HS2 Y
network north of Birmingham are Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.
The viability of the proposed station for East Midlands should
depend on the availability of a suitable site that can deliver
effective rail and road connections to Derby and Nottingham. Unless
the connections are very good it is possible that existing services
may be more competitive, in which case the capacity on the Y network
could be better utilised.
4.2 Which cities should be served by an eventual
high speed network? Is the proposed Y configuration the right
4.2.1 I have no doubt that the proposed Y is indeed
the right choice. In the longer term extensions to York Newcastle,
Edinburgh and Glasgow are likely to become part of the HSR network.
Passive provision must be made in plans for the line to be extended
to those cities. Journey times from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow
will come down to round 2 hours 45 minutes. If the latter are
linked to the improved journey times planned in Scotland, through
journeys from London, Birmingham and Manchester to Inverness and
Aberdeen become viable by rail.
4.3 Is the Government correct to build the
network in stages, moving from London northwards?
4.3.1 The government is right to plan the building
of HS2 from the London end but consideration should be given to
opening the section from Old Oak Common to Birmingham International
first in order that this section can be used for testing as soon
as possible and bring forward the opening date for revenue earning
traffic. Consideration should also be given to constructing those
sections of HS2 around Birmingham and northwards which interface
with other major rail or road projects under construction at the
same time. In this way it is possible to minimise the construction
costs of both. This worked very well on HS1 where the works interfaced
with the widening of the A2 in the Southfleet area.
4.4 The Government proposes a link to HS1
as part of Phase 1 but a direct link to Heathrow only as part
of Phase. Are those the right decisions?
4.4.1 The proposed links to HS1 and Heathrow are
both strategic links of national importance but the availability
of finance is key to the timescale for the building of both. Building
the HS1 link will probably release EEC funds or competitive loans
for HS2 but Heathrow does have serious competition from Paris
Charles De Gaulle, Frankfurt and Amsterdam Schipol airports, all
of which have stations on high speed lines. Rather than delay
construction of the Heathrow link to Phase 2 it would surely be
better to leave open the possibility of earlier opening if significant
funds can be made available from potential partners such as BAA.
5. Economic Rebalancing and Equity
5.2 To what extent should the shape of the
network be influenced by the desirability of supporting local
and regional regeneration?
5.2.1 The cities served by the HS2 Y Project, and
particularly Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield all have
significant local rail networks. These support the local and regional
economy, and growth in levels of rail commuting have generally
been higher than the national average over the last 15 years,
as the city centres have been regenerated. HS2 provides the additional
capacity that enables planners to optimise use of capacity on
both the classic and high speed lines and, in effect, to ensure
that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. HS2 for example
would both add to, and benefit from, the Manchester Hub proposals.
Without it, it is hard to see how local services could be improved
in the Crewe - Manchester corridor, for example. HS2 could also
release the extra capacity to allow a better balance between the
needs of long distance and local passengers in the congested Coventry
to Birmingham corridor.
6.3 What would be the impact on freight services
on the classic network?
6.3.1 The diversion of many long distance trains
will release additional paths for freight, particularly on the
main line routes.
6.4 How much disruption wills there be to
services on the classic network during construction, particularly
during the rebuilding of Euston?
6.4.1 A key advantage of building new capacity is
that the impact is limited to those locations which interface
with the classic network. Disruption is normally limited to weekend
closures in order to join the old and new routes together. In
the case of HS2 the number of such locations is similar to HS1
which included the rebuilding of the throat area on the approach
to St/ Pancras and diversion of the Thameslink route below the
6.4.2 The work to be undertaken at Euston is substantial
but the plan to have 14 platforms available for use at all times
will minimise the effect. The disruption to passengers will be
minor compared with the years of disruption and cancellation of
trains that passengers throughout the route suffered during the
10 years of WCML modernisation.
15 May 2011